18 October 2014

The Lahore court’s decision to uphold Asia Bibi’s death penalty is far from just

.... The power of extremist groups, and the acquiescence of politicians, has had a big impact on the direction of public discussion in Pakistan. The targeting of anyone who speaks out about blasphemy laws has had a chilling effect, and even outspoken liberal voices are reluctant to make the case for reform publicly. Several years ago, while living in Karachi, I wrote on the subject for one of Pakistan’s leading liberal English-language newspapers. The editors decided not to publish it because the subject was deemed too risky.

[A TOP RATED COMMENT] And those of us fortunate to live in modern societies must fight this at every level. We should sanction Islamic regimes who kill blasphemers and apostates, and we should resist the pressure for censorship at home. Next time let's hope the Guardian prints the cartoons.

[ANOTHER] It is utterly crazy, and not a little frightening, that a country with a nuclear capability clings to outmoded and outdated religious beliefs within their laws.

While Pakistan allows religious belief to influence its laws and politics to this extreme then we need to be very careful about our dealings with them.

[ANOTHER] "Asia Bibi’s death penalty is far from just". Understatement of the year.

Why not have a headline that actually reflects what's in the article? Something like "Bibi's death penalty is at outrage to civilisation" or "Bibi's Death penalty shows religious intolerance at its worst" or "shows Pakistan to be as barbaric as ISIS". [The Guardian] Read more

17 October 2014

Pakistani Christian loses appeal against death sentence for blasphemy

A Pakistani court upheld the death penalty on Thursday against a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said, in a case that drew global headlines after two prominent politicians who tried to help her were assassinated.

In 2010, Asia Bibi, a mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

She is alleged to have made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Bibi’s lawyer, Naeem Shakir, said his client had been involved in a dispute with her neighbours and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Two witnesses allegedly involved in the incident did not appear in court, he said. A prayer leader did appear, saying he did not witness the original altercation, but that Bibi had confessed in front of him.

“I was expecting the opposite decision,” Shakir said. “We will file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a few days.” [Reuters] Read more

LHC upholds blasphemy convict Asia Bibi's death penalty

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) during an argument with a Muslim woman.

“A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry told AFP.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence. [AFP] Read more

16 October 2014

Imam: It's 'code red' for American Muslims

.... They wanted to hear Imam Suhaib Webb, resident scholar of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and widely considered one of the country's most influential Muslims, respond to Sam Harris and Bill Maher, who recently called Islam the "mother lode of bad ideas" and compared Muslims to the Mafia.

.... Instead of attacking Maher and Harris, though, Webb challenged his fellow Muslims. "It's code red," he preached last Friday, pounding the minbar for emphasis. "People do not like us, and we need to get with it!"

.... "No community survives that fails to identify itself," Webb said, "and right now the rhetoric and the perception of the Muslim community, whether we believe it or not, is not very good."

Instead, American Muslims frequently find themselves judged by how Islam is practiced overseas: stories about the group calling itself Islamic State, death sentences in Sudan, and restricted rights for women in Saudi Arabia. [CNN] Read more

Pakistan: Death sentence for Christian woman latest 'poisonous' blasphemy law outrage

A Pakistani court’s decision to uphold the death sentence against a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy is the latest unjust use of ‘poisonous’ blasphemy laws in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The Lahore High Court today rejected the appeal against the death sentence imposed on Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument, a charge which she vehemently denies.

Charges brought against individuals under the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are often unfounded malicious accusations stemming from personal enmity. [Amnesty International UK] Read more

15 October 2014

Outrage over swim class for Muslim women

.... The swimming course, which was proposed by town’s Islamic Centre, will take place between January 19th and April 20th next year and is aimed at bringing women of the same faith together, Corriere della Sera reported.

Both Muslim and non-Muslims women will be allowed to join.

While the burkini is not obligatory, Muslim women are requested to wear wet suits with sleeves and knee-length shorts as well as a swimming cap. The instructors will all be female.

The proposal was welcomed by the Geas sports association in Sesto, which described the initiative as “an important moment for integration”. [The Local] Read more

'Trojan Horse' teachers banned from the classroom

Teachers at the centre of a social networking group that allegedly circulated homophobic and anti-Western messages have been barred from the classroom in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” affair.

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, confirmed that two teachers had been subjected to interim banning orders pending a full hearing of the profession’s regulatory body.

In evidence to MPs, she confirmed that a number of other teachers were also being investigating. [The Telegraph] Read more

Tony Blair's 'war of ideas' - What, exactly, is religious extremism?

.... This is pie-in-the-sky stuff. Let's take the example of a nice, "moderate" Wahhabi school (or even a state school) in Saudi Arabia. Students there will be taught that anyone who is not a Wahhabi is destined for hell, and that non-believers are generally inferior because they haven't accepted the true faith. A visit from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation asking them to treat people from different faiths equally isn't going to change that, because it's an essential part of Wahhabi doctrine.

.... Adding an element of religious education, as opposed to instruction, would be a step forward of sorts, but a more radical proposal, advocated by A C Grayling at the recent conference on secularism in London, would be to abolish religious education in schools altogether and replace it with "the history of ideas" – a history in which according to Grayling religion would be no bigger than the dot on a TV screen when you switch it off.

[al-bab.com] Read more

14 October 2014

'Trojan Horse' schools which are ‘taken over’ by Islamist ideas are still not improved

Five Birmingham schools declared failing in the wake of the alleged “Trojan Horse” takeover plot by hardline Muslims have still not improved, Ofsted has warned.

“Very little action” has been taken to address the serious concerns raised about each school’s performance, amid slow progress in appointing new governors and senior leaders, the watchdog said.

In the first update since the schools were inspected earlier this year, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said that “too much poor practice remained unchallenged during the summer term”.

The action and improvement plans of all five schools are “not fit for purpose”, he declared. In one case, at Park View Academy, “little had been done” to tackle segregation between the sexes, and encourage boys and girls to sit together in lessons and share ideas, inspectors warned.

At Golden Hillock school, teenagers studying for a GCSE in Religious Education “have to teach themselves” options other than Islam, Ofsted said, leaving students at a “significant disadvantage”. [The Independent] Read more

13 October 2014

Islamic State Have A Magazine Out, And It Justifies Sex Slavery

Islamic State fighters captured, enslaved and sold Yazidi women and children, and claim the act is justified in Islam to prevent men from feeling "tempted" by other, non-enslaved women, according to a piece in the group's full-colour magazine.

The magazine, which is published in English and evidently aimed at a Western audience, confirms the long-rumoured atrocities committed by the group in Iraq, where Yazidi women have reported being kidnapped, sold for a few dollars and repeatedly raped.

.... Anyone opposing slavery in such circumstances is not a Muslim, the piece says. "Enslaving the families of the kuffar [non-believers] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur'an... and thereby apostatizing from Islam." [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

12 October 2014

Trojan Horse 'just the tip of the iceberg’

The "Trojan Horse” affair in Birmingham was merely the “tip of the iceberg” of Islamist infiltration in British schools, according to the man appointed by the Government to investigate the scandal.

Peter Clarke spoke amid indications that the plot, where hard-line Muslims hounded out secular head teachers in order to “Islamise” state schools, is flaring up again and broadening its reach.

He strongly disputed a statement made two weeks ago by Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary, that ministers had “got to the bottom of the issue”. Asked if he agreed with the claim, made on BBC Radio WM, Mr Clarke said: “Of course the Government hasn’t got to the bottom of the Trojan Horse affair, nowhere near it. [The Telegraph] Read more

11 October 2014

Child abuse policy at school run by Muslim hardliner was based on sharia: Islamic scholars were to be consulted in welfare cases

A school run by a Muslim hardliner was citing sharia in its child protection policies, it emerged yesterday.

Ofsted inspectors found that Al-Aqsa school in Leicester operated on the basis that ‘Ulama’ – Islamic scholars – should be consulted in child abuse and welfare cases, as well as ‘relevant outside agencies’.

The school – founded by Ibrahim Hewitt, an Islamist fundamentalist who says homosexuals should be lashed – declared ‘sharia and the law of the land will be the prime arbiters in child protection concerns’.

This raised the prospect of a different level of protection for Muslim children, said critics. [Daily Mail] Read more

10 October 2014

Terrorists have valid grievances, say some Muslims

Government and law enforcement authorities have failed to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslim Australians with a landmark survey finding that 21 per cent think terrorists have legitimate grievances.

New counter-terrorism laws and police operations risk becoming counter-productive because they have "over-reached" and have created a "siege mentality", researchers found.

The nation-wide study, a government-funded Australian Research Council Discovery project, is the first to quantify the consequences of Australia's fight against terrorism for Muslim communities.

Dr Adrian Cherney, from the University of Queensland, and Associate Professor Kristina Murphy, from Griffith University, surveyed 800 Muslims between June and August and conducted 14 focus groups across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. They will present their full report next year. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

09 October 2014

Australia's terrorism laws 'could criminalise preaching from Qur'an'

Preaching from parts of the Qur’an calling on Muslims to defend their land could fall foul of Australia’s new counter-terrorism laws, senior Islamic clerics fear.

The Australian National Imams Council said the proposed broadening of the offence of advocating terrorism to include those who “promote” and “encourage” violence would have “serious implications on free speech and will have a chilling effect on legitimate religious and political debate”.

In a submission to the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security on Wednesday, the organisation, which represents 250 imams around Australia, said a member could find himself charged with advocating terrorism “if he for example advocated the duty of a Muslim to defend his land”.

[A TOP RATED COMMENT] Of course this is the nub of the issue. ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, Taliban, Al-Qaida, Bali bombers, abu Sayif etc etc take their inspiration from the pages of al Koran. Now even the clerics recognize publicly the martial and deadly nature of the moslem scriptures.

Before anyone jumps up and declares "the Christian/Jewish Bible has similar, if not the same", you must recognize that according to Christian belief, the words of the Bible have "been written by men inspired by God" whereas the Moslem dogma is that the words of the Koran are directly from Allah via Michael to Mohammed. Therefore as such it is unchanging and immutable for all time.

It has always been thus. Bombing and wars will not change a letter of it nor the desire to follow it. Reformation is not possible as that would involve resisting and disputing the word of Allah. The Koran cannot be compared to the Bible and to do so is naive to the extreme. [The Guardian] Read more

Fareed Zakaria: Let’s be honest, Islam has a problem right now

When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that “the Muslim world .?.?. has too much in common with ISIS ” and guest Sam Harris says that Islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas,” I understand why people are upset. Maher and Harris, an author, made crude simplifications and exaggerations. And yet, they were also talking about something real.

I know the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It has a following of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t fit these caricatures. That’s why Maher and Harris are guilty of gross generalizations. But let’s be honest. Islam has a problem today. The places that have trouble accommodating themselves to the modern world are disproportionately Muslim.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] "A small minority of Muslims celebrates violence and intolerance and harbors deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities."

No. A small minority of Muslims PERPETRATES violence, but unfortunately a far larger subset - perhaps a majority - permit it, enable it, and harbor it.

[ANOTHER] "So, the strategy to reform Islam is to tell 1.6 billion Muslims, most of whom are pious and devout, that their religion is evil and they should stop taking it seriously? That is not how Christianity moved from its centuries-long embrace of violence, crusades, inquisitions, witch-burning and intolerance to its modern state."

Sorry Fareed, but that is exactly what happened. The West started to take our holy book less seriously. The Old Testament is just as warlike, intolerant, sexist, and homophobic as the Koran. But we started to take things like constitutions and democracy and science and human rights more seriously than religion. And until Islam does the same we will have problems. [The Washington Post] Read more

Salman Rushdie condemns 'hate-filled rhetoric' of Islamic fanaticism

Accusations of 'Islamophobia' are being levelled at anyone who dares to speak out against the "hate-filled rhetoric" of Islamic fanaticism, Salman Rushdie has claimed in a speech condemning Isil and "this new age of religious mayhem".

Rushdie voiced his fears that the language of "jihadi-cool" is seducing young British Muslims, many via Twitter and YouTube, into joining the "decapitating barbarianism" of Isil, the group also referred to as Islamic State or Isis.

In his PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture, the author said all religions have their extremists but "the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam". [The Telegraph] Read more

08 October 2014

The Sun’s ‘Unite against Isis’ campaign is a proxy for anti-Muslim bigotry

You, Muslim! Is your Islam ‘British’ enough? Are you standing up to extremism? If not, you are Part of the Problem, apparently.

Imagine your average British Muslim family sitting around the breakfast table with the papers this morning. On the front page of the Sun, an image of a woman in a hijab fashioned out of the Union Jack and the headline “United Against IS” hollers out at them. In the right-hand corner, a subheadline urges them to “stand up to extremists”.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 1581 votes] If you want to be part of a decent society, you are expected to stand up to anything that threatens that society.

If you define yourself through your religion, you should really stand up and say these people don't represent my religion.

[SECOND 1453v] "Police swoop on first suspected Islamic terror cell in UK" and it gets twisted to be about "Islamophobia". Why am I not surprised?

[THIRD 1251v] But a tiny minority of Muslims are proving to be an enemy within, aren't they? They undeniably exist. A few have joined IS. They are happy to listen to anti-British hate-speech at their mosques, they bring up their children to think of mainstream society as inferior and contemptible. Why aren't you directing your fury at them?

.... Bloody hell. You behave as though mainstream society should just ignore this in order that some Muslims are not 'offended'. I mean, really?? You are quite comfortable with things continuing to escalate and pour contempt on people like Sara Khan who are trying to help?

[FOURTH 1225v] People aren't deaf to muslim condemnation of extremism, it's just that the condemnation isn't very loud. In fact it's a whisper compared to the accompanying screams of 'Islamophobia!'.

[FIFTH 1039v] .... this would never have been a problem if British Muslims had done more to integrate into society in the first place. No other community seems to have the same problems. [Guardian Cif] Read more

Muslims warn anti-terror laws could prevent teaching from Kora

A Muslim cleric who preaches from certain passages of the Koran could be caught in the "broad" net of the government's new anti-terror law, Islamic leaders have warned.

Grand Mufti of Australia Ibrahim Abu Mohammad and the Australian National Imams Council have called for the offence of "advocating terrorism" to be removed from the so-called Foreign Fighters Bill, currently before Parliament.

They went public with their opposition on the same day Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed the draft legislation as essential to reining in "preachers of hate", including the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

07 October 2014

Identifying the Real Cause of Terrorism

.... We simply need to open our eyes and see the problem as it is. The thread that connects almost all so-called "Muslim" terrorists is militant Salafism.

The same violent ideology that the late Saudi crown prince and the royal family's most influential ideologue Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz referred to when he said "the state of Saudi Arabia is a Salafi state. We will forever remain as such and shall never deviate from our Salafi roots as it is the source of our pride and greatness". [The Huffington Post UK] Read more

06 October 2014

The niqab makes me feel liberated, and no law will stop me from wearing it

.... Tony Abbott and Jacqui Lambie say that any restriction on the burqa or niqab is a matter for national security. I completely understand, but their claims are ignorant: in fact it is is part of sharia law that we must uncover our faces for identification. When I went to get a parking permit at my university, I asked if I needed to show my face.

Banning the niqab or burqa would take away my right to live in the way that fits me. That restricts my freedom and puts me in a position where I must be especially cautious of my surroundings. Violence and abuse against Muslim women has increased as a result of the fear-mongering on this issue.

No matter what law is passed on the niqab, it will not stop me from wearing it. I don’t want to be controlled and told what I can and can not wear: that is oppression.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 968 votes] And you should accept that the rest of us are just as free to determined to choose what we deal with and if we decide that someone hiding under a cloth due to lack of personality and intelligence rather than because of it, don't then cry discrimination. Do you wonder whether people may not actually want to see or deal with someone with so much bad faith towards them?

[SECOND 621v] "I feel liberated by the fact that I choose what you see." And I choose what I interact with. This will not include you. If you do not trust me then you are not asking for my trust, either.

[THIRD 598v] "When we meet, I choose what you see". Can you not see why hiding yourself from us is a guarantee that you will be faced with suspicion?

[FOURTH 592v] I don't think I've ever read such a self referential, yet very brief article in a very long time.."I" this "I" that, Perhaps, for a pleasant change, the author could take time out to consider Us & We instead of making the usual demands of her ilk.

[FIFTH 561v] "Violence and abuse against Muslim women has increased as a result of the fear-mongering on this issue"

The greatest perpetrators of violence against muslim women are other muslims.

"I completely understand, but their claims are ignorant: in fact it is is part of sharia law that we must uncover our faces for identification"

So why hasn't the muslim community been proactive in the debate about covering and identification? and I'm not sure that appeals to sharia law will sway people to your arguments.

"When you deal with me, you deal with my mind, my personality, my emotions and what I have to offer as a person – and that’s it."

No we don't. We deal with a person who has their face covered and all the baggage that that entails. [Guardian Cif] Read more

05 October 2014

Muslims call for stricter hate crime laws to go with national security powers

The Queensland Muslim community has called for a lower threshold for arrest and increased penalties for people convicted of hate crimes that can be linked to the introduction of national security legislation.

A submission to a parliamentary committee endorsed by a large number of groups and individuals underlines how the current debate has inflamed racial and religious tension, with Muslims the main target.

[TOP RATED COMMENT] So to protect us from the terrorist problems of radical Islam, Muslim leaders want to muzzle the rest of us presumable to prevent us from speaking our minds about the problems of radical Islam.

What other religious group has demanded that in order for them to support our protection we must give up the right to criticise them?

The Government needs to do what is required to protect us irrespective of what Muslim leaders say. [The Guardian] Read more

My faith has been hijacked by extremists. After Alan Henning’s murder, we must reclaim it

.... This is why, last week, we launched #makingastand. The campaign encourages women to take the lead in exerting influence in their communities and to root out extremists who are preying on their children. But it is also designed to provide an alternative narrative for young British Muslims: to pledge their allegiance to their country, to respect human rights and to be a peaceful, thoughtful member of British society.

It is in stark contrast to what extremists preach. Our campaign is a “jihad against violence”, an attempt to reclaim the word jihad from those who have wrongly attributed it to mean holy war. Jihad means no such thing. Instead, it is a struggle for goodness, for truth, for justice, for compassion and for peaceful coexistence.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 612 votes] "If Muhammad – a man who was sent as a “mercy to the world” – were alive today..."

...he'd be on trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.

[SECOND 595v] "... and even violates the basic tenets of mercy, peaceful co-existence and love spoken of in the Qur’an?"

Yes, I'm sure that are such words in the Qur’an. Unfortunately, there are lots of other words that mean the opposite and those are the ones ISIS believe.

You will just have to get it into your head, one day, that the Qur’an is a mish mash of human thought (and legend) from late antiquity much of it put together by a clever individual struggling for power and influence.

[THIRD 485v] In reality this is a civil war between different strains of Islam with tragic consequences. I don't know which side is in the majority. What I do know, and I have demonstrated, is that the jihadi / ISIS strain of Islam did not come out of nowhere. It was nurtured by Saudi and other Gulf money and was espoused by the leaders of the British Muslim community for decades.

"If the prophet Muhammad – a man who was sent as a “mercy to the world” – were alive today, what would he make of these followers?"

I'll leave it to people to read the koran and the ahadith and form their own opinion on that question. However, in truth, we all know the answer. Any seventh century warlord would have welcomed such a dedicated band of followers.

If you take your moral compass from a seventh century load of codswallop of dubious provenance you need to face up to realities like that. If Muhammad existed he would have welcomed them. [Guardian Cif] Read more

04 October 2014

Ofsted: Trojan Horse schools 'still failing to promote British values'

Schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse scandal are still promoting an “unbalanced curriculum” and segregating boys and girls in the classroom, according to Ofsted.

The education watchdog said "very little action" had been taken to address major failings at five Birmingham schools suspected of being subjected to an alleged takeover plot by hard-line Muslims.

.... This includes an example of one school that requires pupils to teach themselves about any faith other than Islam, including Christianity. At another, a supply teacher taught a religious education lesson that "appeared to promote an inappropriate Islamist agenda".

One school even took pupils on a trip to Mecca despite telling governors that it had been cancelled "due to failures in safeguarding".

[TOP RATED COMMENT] Do you honestly believe these schools or councils will carry out these recommendations? They will carry on as before, knowing that the government will do nothing.

[SECOND] "Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: “It is utterly incomprehensible that six months after these serious concerns became public David Cameron’s Government has still not taken action".

Shame he chooses to overlook the fact that Labour Birmingham City Council did its best to ignore the problem and cover it up, and is still doing so.

[THIRD] "Failing to improve", "Struggling to promote", "Too much poor practice" remaining "unchallenged". These are all polite euphemisms for "they've dug their heels in". And "very little action" means "nothing's been done". So, to interpret, they've dug their heels in and nothing's been done. [The Telegraph] Read more

Europe grapples with whether to ban Muslim burqas and niqabs

After France banned veils in 2011, a French woman in her early 20s decided to fight for her niqab.

Backed by a group of Birmingham lawyers, the Pakistan-born university graduate and devout Sunni took her case to the European court of human rights, asking them to support her faith, culture and personal convictions.

But her suit was rejected in a decision handed down three months ago. And the decision has given new fuel to an already growing push across Europe to remove Muslim veils from society.

The woman, known to the court as "SAS", said neither her husband nor any member of her family pressured her to dress in the burqa and niqab – her aim was "to feel at inner peace with herself". She was happy to take it off for security checks at banks or airports, or other necessary identity checks, but wanted the right to wear it around town. [The Sydney Morning Herald] Read more

Qatar and Saudi Arabia 'have ignited time bomb by funding global spread of radical Islam'

.... The two Gulf states have spent billions of dollars on promoting a militant and proselytising interpretation of their faith derived from Abdul Wahhab, an eighteenth century scholar, and based on the Salaf, or the original followers of the Prophet.

But the rulers of both countries are now more threatened by their creation than Britain or America, argued Gen Shaw. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has vowed to topple the Qatari and Saudi regimes, viewing both as corrupt outposts of decadence and sin. [The Telegraph] Read more